Big Game Yentas
Job Title: High-end matchmaker
Employers: Mostly self-employed
Openings: Hang out a shingle
Salary Cap: Several million dollars
Number of Jobs: About 1,600 in the U.S.
On a recent night out, Susan Rose and Jennifer Heller were busy on both coasts. Heller, who had helmed the human resources department at MTV, was at an AIDS benefit at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in New York, where she met Elton John and Ozzy Osbourne (earlier in the evening, she was at a book signing at the Four Seasons), while Rose, a former head of development at a nonprofit, was hosting a fundraiser in Seattle for Senator Carl Levin, of Michigan.
But the two were not simply socialites out on the town but high-end matchmakers, and much of their time that night was spent scoping out potential partners for their clients. "By the end of the night, we had phone numbers for eight possible matches," says Heller.
The pair have been in business as Rose & Heller since 2004, and at any given moment, they're working with 30 to 50 highly accomplished (read: wealthy) professional singles, each of whom pays between $10,000 and $20,000 for Rose and Heller to fix them up ($10,000 gets you three dates, with the price increasing for more introductions and events like dinner parties). The two draw most of their clients from the rosters of charity boards, private clubs, university clubs, and philanthropic organizations, mostly in the New York area.
Typical of their clientele is Andrew Clark (not his real name), a tall, athletic real-estate developer with several homes and a globe-trotting lifestyle. By most people's reckoning, he had it all and was constantly getting women's phone numbers thrust upon him. But as he told Heller and Rose, "I get lots of attention from women, but I feel like none of them really want to get to know me." The pair matched him up with five women they thought would complement him well, but the sixth turned out to be the charm. A year-and-a-half after Clark's first meeting with the matchmakers, the couple married.
Neither of the close friends started out as matchmakers. Prior to MTV, Heller had worked in H.R. at McGraw-Hill, Standard & Poor's, Bergdorf Goodman, and Office.com, while Rose was the director of development for the EastWest Institute, an international think tank.
Both had scaled back on work in order to raise their children but yearned for meaningful careers that would pair well with parenthood. A television program on matchmakers triggered the idea. "I was skiing and it hit me-we were born to be matchmakers," says Rose, whose amateur yenta skills had already resulted in eight marriages. Six years ago, she even brought Heller, who is divorced, together with her now fianc�. Meanwhile, Heller had made a career out of finding the right candidate for a job and advising executives on delicate issues like compensation and termination.
These days, the duo often begin their day with phone calls and emails to follow up on clients' recent dates. "If one of the daters didn't feel a spark, sometimes diplomacy is required before the other goes too far down fantasy lane," says Heller. They also call around to find matches for their clients, talking to promising candidates in person to see if the chemistry might be right.
Discretion is paramount, and all of the hopeful singles they work with are referred by friends and acquaintances. Few, they say, would otherwise go to a matchmaker, though the back pages of magazines like New York are full of ads for them. "Our clients only work with us because they know and trust us," says Heller. Their roster ranges in age from late thirties to sixties, with half having been married before. About 60 percent are women.
The pair say their approach is to look for what they believe are the two key elements in good matches: values and outlook. Too many people, they say, seek out a r�sum�: the "right" job, car, clothes, and so on. "I tell clients, 'You can date that r�sum� person all you want,'?" says Rose, "but they're not going to give you emotional satisfaction." (To see which well-known executive might be a good romantic match for you, try out our Executive Match Game).
That advice often takes a while to sink in, if it ever does. One client, a prominent physician, brought the 21st-century yentas a copy of Manhattan-lifestyle magazine Avenue and pointed to one of the socialites pictured, saying that was who he wanted. Rose happened to know one of the women in the photo, and after some reconnaissance, she managed to find out that the woman in question was married-with three kids. Undaunted, the client returned with a copy of Gotham, another upscale magazine for "sophisticated" New Yorkers, and a new dream girl. The two tracked her down, found out that she was single-and today the couple is engaged.
Rose and Heller take every request seriously, even if it's against their better judgment.
"We wake up in the middle of night thinking about" our work, says Rose. "We're going to bring babies into this world. These are people's lives."